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Now if the anguish of a truly penitent heart S er m. be thus great, while men are in this world, and XXIII. have it in their power to repent; then what must it be hereafter, when there is no room left for repentance ?
II. Another thing, which may help us tơ conceive what that worm of conscience shall be hereafter, is the fearful condition of persons in despair. I am not inclined indeed to think, that all those persons do indeed despair, who affirm it; nor that the condition of those is desperate who obstinately decline all comfort, and can entertain little or no hope of the mercy of God. While their fears are all on their own fide, and they do not abate of their endeavours to amend, others may reasonably conceive good hopes of them, and may justly have entertained a great charity for them, though they will have none for themselves.
Yet it is not unlikely, that even in this life, God may give over a perverse and obstinate finner, to the malitious infinuations of the Devil, and the lashes of an evil conscience ; and perhaps we are not without some terrible instances of such black despair in wicked men, especially near their death; when the
of God is entirely withdrawn, the tine of repentance past, and all degrees of hope entirely cut off, so that the wretch hath nothing left to reflect upon but his sins, and that eternal vengeance that expects him. When a dead and hardened consciei.ce is thus awakened in the last extremity, it is visible how the terrors
SER M. of the Lord are let loose upon him; he is then XXIII. in the gall of bitterness; and this worm of conVWscience torments him before his time, as if it
were in haíte to devour him. He raves incessantly of the wrath and fury of God, of vengeance and damination ; he breathes out nothing but horrid execrations; and scarce names the name of God but to blafpheme.
Rage and madness are terms of mildness to this, insomuch that he scares and confounds all about him ; his very silence is full of horror, and his looks betray a legion of tormentors within. To express compaffion would be to mock him ; for there is no use of pity from men where there is no hopes of mercy from God.
I must confess all impenitent sinners at their death, have not this amazing sense of guilt, and the vengeance that belongs to it; the nature of their distemper, a sudden violence, and many accidental causes
may prevent it; and where there is none of these, the consciences of some finners are so stupid and benummed that they continue insensible to the last, and go with a sullen silence, into the regions of darkness. But the gnawings of this worm will be more surprizing and never the less fierce and violent in another world ; though wicked men feel it not at present ; yet like those rotten carcasses in the valley of Hinnom, they are engendering those worms that shall eat through their own bowels; and the fiercest sting of that worm will be the fad
their own madness and folly, S E R M. who, for want of bearing a little trouble and XXIV. uneasiness in this world, quitted heaven, and lost the kingdom of God; and for those Thort momentary pitiful pleasures, which did not deserve the name of such, are now cast into hell fire.
II. Another aggravation of that future state of misery is, that their fire is not quenched. This expreffion of an unquenchable fire took it's first rise from a fire which consumed fo intirely, as to leave no memory or remains of what was cast into it, as it is said, Isai. xxxiv. 10. Speaking of the destruction of Idumea, He says it's fire shall not be quenched, night nor day, the smoak thereof shall go up for ever, from one generation to another it fall lie waste. So Sodom and Gomorrah are said to be set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire ; (i. e.) a fire which consumed them, so as that they shall lie eternally waste: From hence it became the usual phrase, to express those torments of wicked men in another world, which shall never have an end. And thus it is used by our Saviour in his last sentence upon the wicked, depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and bis angels, and in the 20th of the Revelations, it is called a lake of fire wherein the wicked Ihall be tormented for ever and ever : And in this sense hell fire is faid in the text not to be quenched. Now whether it be a real fire or no, is not Vol. II,
SERM. at all material for us to determine ; for if it be, XXIII. and if the flames of hell are literally to be un
derstood, then who will be able to dwell with everlasting burnings ? And how dear will the finful pleasures of this world be bought, at such a monstrous price? Men Ihrink at the thoughts of burning alive, and nature starts at the mention of it; and therefore it is strange that people should have such a mighty dread of fire here, and yet be so little moved with the burning for ever hereafter. Nothing can poffibly be the reason of this, but because they do not believe it, or do not consider it. But whether men have any hearty perswasion of the truth of this or no, it is better to part with all the pleasures of this life, than run fo great a hazard.
If it be not literally a fire, it is certainly called fo for want of fomething on earth more dreadful, and of a pain more exquisite, whereby to reprefent it, so that this inftead of lefsening the terror adds extremely to it. Whether it be one or the other, it is surely insupportable and eternal, and therefore as our Saviour says here, it is better, infinitely better, to part with all our dearest sins, and pluck out the very eye that offends
us, and enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having too eyes to be caft into hell fire, where their worm dies not, and their fire is not quenched.
I should now proceed to make some observations and inferences from this text; but this I Thall defer to the next opportunity.
MAR K ix. 47, 48.
better for thee to enter into the kingdom of
HAVE already fpoke to these words, Serm. which whether they are an answer or not
XXIV. to any objection made, or designed to obviate one which might reasonably be expected, yet, they suppose the duties our Saviour had been discoursing of, to be of some difficulty and uneasiness. But though they are hard, yet he shews in these words that they are necessary and possible, if men will do as much for the innocence of their souls, as they ordinarily do for the health of their bodies. N 2